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Seed source pattern and terrain have scale-dependent effects on post-fire tree recovery

Abstract

Context

Distance to seed source is often used to estimate seed dispersal—a process needed for post-fire tree recovery. However, distance, especially in mountainous terrain, does not capture pattern or scale-dependent effects controlling seed supply and delivery. Measuring seed source pattern (area and arrangement) could provide insights on how these spatial dynamics shape recovery.

Objectives

We tested metrics and investigated how seed source pattern, tree regeneration traits, scale, and terrain interact to shape post-fire tree recovery. Our research questions were: Does seed source pattern outperform distance when modeling tree species presence and regeneration density? If yes, does seed source pattern have scale-dependent or terrain-dependent effects on regeneration density?

Methods

We measured seed source pattern at nested spatial extents around 71 plots and related measurements to local post-fire tree recovery. We used generalized linear models to test metrics and visualize scale-dependent and terrain-dependent effects on regeneration density.

Results

Distance sufficiently modeled presence, but seed source pattern outperformed distance when modeling regeneration density. Relevant spatial extents and relationships were species-dependent. For wind-dispersed species, regeneration was associated with more seed source area and more complex arrangements, but terrain mediated these relationships. For serotinous and resprouting species, regeneration was associated with less seed source area and less complex arrangements, which are consistent with high-severity burn sites that promote recovery.

Conclusions

Seed source pattern supports spatial resilience and interacts with scale and terrain to shape regeneration density. Accounting for these spatial dynamics could help steward forests facing changing fire regimes.

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Acknowledgements

The National Science Foundation (BCS-1901630), Joint Fire Science Program (1910144), National Geographic, National Aeronautics and Space Administration Pennsylvania Space Grant Consortium, and Penn State Center for Landscape Dynamics funded the study. We thank Hunter Mitchell and Shaina Walker for their hard work in the field, as well as Shelby Duncan for their assistance with the object based image analysis. We also thank Diane Abendroth and Bridger-Teton National Forest for their logistical support and permitting the study. Laura Leites, Doug Miller, and Alan Taylor served on JLP’s dissertation committee and provided helpful feedback on the manuscript and study.

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Correspondence to Jamie L. Peeler.

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Peeler, J.L., Smithwick, E.A.H. Seed source pattern and terrain have scale-dependent effects on post-fire tree recovery. Landscape Ecol 35, 1945–1959 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10980-020-01071-z

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Keywords

  • Mixed conifer forest
  • Fire
  • Seed dispersal
  • Pattern
  • Terrain
  • Spatial resilience